Gratitude, Optimism, & Quality Of Life. You Could Live Better & Longer!:
With the end-of-year holidays upon us now, that means at least one thing.
We all survived Thanksgiving with our weird, and probably-alcoholic relatives.
Which brings us to an important point: Many holidays try to emphasize at least some good personal qualities.
Especially when it comes to remembering people who had almost nothing and risked it all to try to start over.
Those people were genuinely thankful for every tiny bit of something they had.
And that’s not just an exercise in “woo-woo”. SCIENCE! has found real benefits…
The Short Answer:
- Even though surviving it and the relatives is a challenge, Thanksgiving is an amazing holiday.
- (even if Randy Quaid shows up)
- There is a chance that personal virtues have been recommended over time for more than 1 reason.
- Science is finding out positive belief-systems & practices impact health positively.
- UCSF & UMich researchers studied over 4800 people across a few cultures.
- People who expressed Gratitude had lower heart rates & blood-pressure.
- People who were Optimistic had better sleep, lower stress, and more positive reflections of the past.
- Populations studied include people from Australia, Hong Kong, India, and the USA
- People who expressed Gratitude noted more positive events across each day.
- This was in addition to noticing more kindnesses by themselves and from others.
- Optimists were more likely to minimize any negative events of the day than they were to only be positive about the future.
- Previous work on Gratitude, Optimism, & Happiness suggests even more health benefits.
- The great part about Gratitude is that you can make it a deliberate act of practice every day.
- There are several exercises you can do to get the ball rolling.
- Writing down 3 good things that went well for you is one.
- Identifying a few of your signature-strengths is another.
- Re-assessing negative life events that eventually turned out positive is another.
- Perhaps ancient philosophers were right about the benefits of personal virtues on more than just one level.
- Especially when it comes to living longer & better when you bring Gratitude, Optimism, & Happiness into your life.
Read on to find out the details…
→ Show/Hide Table Of Contents ←
Is There Something More To The Emphasis On Personal Virtues?:
So isn’t it funny that so many different celebrations, rituals, belief-systems, and grandmothers all try to get us to do something positive in a personal sense?
-Even with holidays built around the notions of Gratitude, Generosity, and Self-Reflection, like the ones at the end of the year.
Now some of the more cynical out there might just suggest this is all hand-waving and alchemy BS.
But if that’s true, why do these personal characteristics keep coming up in the recommended-section of historically-curated schools of thought?
Well, researchers at the University of Michigan and UCSF are starting to scratch the surface, even if in a non-spiritual way.
Researchers Take A Look At The Health Of Positive People Across The World:
In a study of just over 4800 people in 21-day blocks across 21 months, subjects reported stress, behavioral health like sleep and exercise, and thoughts and expectations 3x/day.
They also completed mindset surveys ranking a series of statements across a range of agreement or disagreement.
But very-interestingly, the researchers also had the subjects hooked up to a set of sensors that went through an app on their phones.
These measured blood-pressure and heart-rate.
After the researchers collected & sifted the data, they found that people with positive mindsets also tended to have better health.
The Mental And Physiological Benefits For Gratitude & Optimism:
So for the subjects who reported being more Grateful in their thought-reports & survey-responses,
Their benefits were:
1) Lower Heart Rate
2) Lower Blood Pressure
3) Increased feelings of appreciation toward other people
And to a slightly-different extent, people who expressed Optimism had:
1) Better Sleep Quality
2) More Positive Reflections
3) Lower Stress Quantity
4) Lower Stress Frequency
Another interesting point, is that these results seemed to hold for people from at least a few different cultures.
These included Australia, Hong Kong, India, and the USA.
UMich & UCSF Teams Drilled-Down To Find A Bit More:
When the researchers drilled-down into a few of the specifics, they found a few expected things and a few unexpected.
Subjects reporting higher Gratitude levels focused both on others’ and their own kindnesses,
But they were also much more aware of all the positive aspects of each day on its own.
And while researchers had forecast that subjects reporting higher Optimism would think & behave mostly as a function of their positive beliefs about the future,
Their standout characteristic was that they all were found to have minimized the worst parts of every day.
So they were actually very skilled at looking backward in time and thinking of past events as less-unpleasant than their less-optimistic counterparts.
The Current Research Joins Gratitude Work That Goes Even Further:
But that’s not the end of the story!
Because the current study stands on top of a collection of previous work on Gratitude,
Which suggests even more far-ranging benefits, such as:
1) It may stop you from overeating.
2) It may help you get to sleep faster & better
3) It can reduce Depression over time.
4) It can make you take better care of yourself & your health.
5) Counting your blessings results in long-term happiness.
There Is Also A Deeper Well For The Optimists, Too:
On the other hand, people who were Optimistic were studied in other works.
This also included Happy people, because in many cases, Happy does equal Healthy.
But in addition to being healthier and living longer, Optimistic people were believed to do the following:
1) They may be able to Regulate Emotions Better
2) They may be able to Regulate Behavior Better
3) As a result, they may Bounce Back from Stress or Disappointment Better
They may also have Fewer Bad Habits in:
4) Diet Quality & Calorie Quantity
4b) Alcohol Use
4c) Drug Use
They may also have More Good Habits in things like:
5) Sleep Hygiene
Great Habits That Are All Neighbors. Plus A Few Things To Try:
So there is a lot of previous work that supports the current stuff.
So much so that there seems to be a little solar-system of beneficial habits that all seem to be neighbors.
And the best thing about them of course is that you can do specific things to make a regular practice out of them, especially Gratitude.
Some of these come from The Signature Strengths Positive Intervention Study.
Though you will find more of them on HT’s earlier post on Gratitude.
Here are just a few:
1) Three Good Things – Write down three things went well for you no matter how trivial, as frequently as 1x/Day or infrequently as 1x/Week. Your choice. Include an explanation of why they happened. (this is Martin Seligman’s favorite.)
2) Signature Strengths – After identifying roughly 5 of your own personal character strengths, Use one of them in a new way 1x/Week.
3) One Door Closes, Another One Opens – Write about an event in your life week when something immediately-perceived as negative in some way actually led to some kind of unforeseen positive consequence.
Ancient Philosophy Is Deep. Virtues Are Esteemed For Many Reasons:
So there you go, more SCIENCE!-type evidence that Optimism, Gratitude, and Happiness aren’t just silly, hedonistic “woo-woo” for the stoner/ayahuasca set.
They have real benefits that you can get into through things you can actually do regularly.
So in-addition to making your life a whole lot more pleasant, pithy, grounded, and realistic,
There’s a good chance they might actually make your life healthier, happier, and longer, too!
References & Links:
• Source: UMich
• More Coverage: HT- Gratitude | HT- Optimism | HT- Happiness Vs. Health
• Source Study:
•APAPsychNet – Comparing daily physiological and psychological benefits of gratitude and optimism using a digital platform.
Leave a Reply